Yeah, and if you look at '84 and '85, very few of those are sequels or remakes, a lot of great entertainment ideas were allowed to be fostered and turned into entertainment, and I think it spurred the few remakes and sequels to be themselves better. That was before the studios got overrun with the corporations who had just bought them though.
I do agree with your point, though, I think movies as a whole have been going downhill since the mid-80s. There are still a few high points (like LOTR), but it's almost unheard of for so many big, iconic films to be released in one year these days.
Do you think knowing the stories ahead of time affected your opinions of the films? I remember feeling very frustrated and disappointed with The Princess Bride, of all movies, for not living up to the book even as everybody else was praising the film. But the LOTR movies and The Hobbit I definitely didn't have that with.
We watched ESB and ROTJ when we spent the summer in California as well. They were VHS recordings of the HBO broadcasts of the film. So the quality really wasn't there at all; but I knew the story for the movies almost backwards and forwards by then. I had read the storybooks and the novelizations and whatever else I could find about the films, so they kind of got built up in my mind into more than what they were. I think my biggest disappointment with ESB was the battle of Hoth being so short and no Wampa attack on the Rebel base. ROTJ just felt like it dragged on way too long between blowing up Jabba's Sail Barge and blowing up the second Death Star.